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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

272                        The Greek Papyri
one, for example, two men undertake to lease for one year all
the operations connected with a vineyard and we have a detailed
description of what this entails. They even provide some evi-
dence about the lighter side of life, as when Onnophris and some
friends of his at Oxyrhynchus hire a whole company of flute-
players and musicians (the word used is avfji^ajma) for the five
feast-days, donkey transport to be provided, and part of the
substantial fee to be paid in advance. From the darker side of
ancient life we may quote a Berlin papyrus in which a widow
contracts with her prospective mother-in-law to expose the
child of her previous marriage; what is surprising to us is not
that the exposure (which we know was common) should take
place, but that it should be provided for by a legal document.
Much of the material that the papyri have provided for the
historian is of this indirect character, though a date attached
to a contract may effect a vital change in chronology, just as
the geographical particulars in a deed of sale or lease may inform
us of the existence of some unsuspected temple or cult; direct
evidence, that is reference to persons or events of historical „ \
importance in contemporary documents, is rarer than we might
expect. But examples of this are to be found; in the Zenon papyri,
for example, historical personages occasionally figure. In one
letter a garrulous and unknown correspondent reports to Zenon
that he has called in an expert to ccure' some dice made of
gazelle bone; the expert thinks poorly of them and to confirm
his judgement refers to his practice at the court, where he has
'cured' dice for Alexander the Etesian—a man who had once
been king of Macedon for forty-five days (hence his nickname)
and now some twenty years later appears as a pensioner playing
knuckle-bone at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Again, a
scrap of a decree of no more than three lines is sufficient to show
that Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, when he invaded Egypt in
170 B.C., did, as our ancient authorities say, dethrone the reign-
ing Ptolemy, while the fact that the Faiyum is not called the